A defense lawyer for an American student accused of killing her British roommate wrapped up his closing arguments Wednesday, breaking down after he urged the court to give his client back her life.
Amanda Knox and her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito are being tried in Perugia for the 2007 slaying of Meredith Kercher. They deny wrongdoing.
Luciano Ghirga, one of Knox's defense lawyers, insisted in court that Knox was the victim of a "mechanism that crushed her."
"Amanda is asking to have her life back. Give Amanda her life back by clearing her of all charges," Ghirga said, raising his voice and fighting back tears at the end of his three-hour long remarks.
A verdict by the eight-member jury is expected by the end of the week.
Kercher's body was found Nov. 2, 2007, in the apartment she shared with Knox. Prosecutors believe she was killed in a drug-fueled attack and was sexually assaulted. Knox and Sollecito are being tried on charges of murder and sexual violence. A third suspect Rudy Hermann Guede of Ivory Coast, was sentenced to 30 years in jail last year in a separate trial.
Ghirga challenged evidence in the case, including a knife that prosecutors say could be the murder weapon. The 6 1/2-inch blade that prosecutors say had Kercher's DNA on the blade and Knox's on the handle was found at Sollecito's house. According to Ghirga, wounds and cuts on the Briton's body indicate that a smaller knife might have been used in the attack.
He charged that prosecutors had changed their minds about the alleged motive for the attack.
"Initially, it was a sexual motive, now it's hate," Ghirga said. "But that's just another non-existing motive."
In his closing remarks, lead prosecutor Giuliano Mignini contended that Knox "harbored hatred" for Kercher and wanted to get back at her for saying she was not clean and was promiscuous. Knox has denied having problems with Kercher and has said she was shocked by her friend's death.
In an apparent acknowledgment of the enormous pressure the high-profile case has created, Ghirga appeared to weep as he thanked the jury and colleagues at the end of his arguments.
"I broke down at the end, as soon as I stopped talking. I even feel a bit embarrassed about it," he said as he left the courtroom.
Prosecutors requested life terms for Knox and Sollecito, who maintain they were at Sollecito's apartment the night of the slaying, watching a movie on his computer and smoking pot. Defense lawyers for Knox and Sollecito are working on the theory that Guede was the sole attacker.
Knox's sister, Deanna Knox, said she was nervous about the outcome but hopeful things would go well.
"I know she is innocent and she'll be home any time now," she said.
Knox is also being tried on charges of defamation for allegedly accusing Diya "Patrick" Lumumba — a Congolese man who owns a pub in Perugia where she worked — of being the killer. Because of her accusation, Lumumba was briefly jailed. He was later cleared and is seeking damages from Knox. The American testified last June that she was beaten by police and confused when she was questioned and that the pressure led her to accuse Lumumba.
Police have denied any misconduct.